Thu | Aug 17, 2017

Paving another way to Portland - New road plan welcome for tourists, residents

Published:Sunday | June 19, 2016 | 6:00 AMMel Cooke
Gilbert Hall of Honest John Boston Jerk at a previous staging of the Boston Jerk Festival in Portland.
The Blue Lagoon in Portland.
Marcia Lawrence
A trailer truck stuck near Brandon Hill on the Junction Main Road.
The highway at Annotto Bay, St Mary, on the other side of the island from the road between Portand and St Thomas which is slated for development.
A tunnel when it was under construction at the bridge over the Rio Grande in Portland.
A section of the St Thomas road on which work has already been done.
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While the proposal for a new highway through St Thomas to Port Antonio, Portland, from the Jamaican capital have been shelved, the solution announced by Prime Minister Andrew Holness on Thursday has still struck a positive note for someone heavily involved with the tourism product in the parish where tourism in Jamaica began.

Marcia Lawrence operates the Rafter's Rest, which is on the bank of the Rio Grande in St Margaret's Bay, Portland, and is also a part of the Country Hoppers group, which has staged monthly parties in Portland, encouraging Jamaicans to visit the parish and consider a more extended stay.

Among the more popular attractions in Portland are the Blue Lagoon and Frenchman's Cove Beach. Annual events include the Boston Jerk Festival and Dis Poem Wordz and Agro Festival.

However, Lawrence is not looking at the plan to have a four-lane highway between Harbour View and Bull Bay, then an improved roadway on to Morant Bay and beyond solely from the perspective of moving visitors from the Norman Manley Airport at Palisadoes to the parish famed for its beauty.

"Right now, it is a minority which comes in at Kingston," Lawrence said about visitor arrivals. However, she said, "If we are going to develop the island as a whole, we need to make sure it is accessible all around." With that objective, Lawrence said establishing a good A1 highway network creates the comfort and ease of access required for persons to see St Thomas and Portland as places where they can be entertained.

Now, persons tend to travel between Kingston and Portland using the Junction road which goes through St Mary. Lawrence said this traffic puts a lot of pressure on the roadway's capacity. There is also the issue of landslides when rain falls heavily, which inhibits traffic.

Lawrence is also envisioning the increased economic activity for vendors and small shop owners generated by traffic along an improved roadway. "They would have that if people were passing through that way," she said about the improved Harbour View to Bull Bay, Yallahs, Morant Bay, Manchioneal, Boston and Port Antonio route. "It provides for some means of employment," Lawrence said.

Accessing Portland through the Junction from Norman Manley Airport includes travelling across the city, which can be an arduous journey. Again, though, Lawrence establishes a context of facilitating residents of St Thomas and Portland as much as visitors, giving the example of goods delivery in the two parishes being greatly improved. "The better the roads are, the cheaper it is moving around," Lawrence said.

There is another way to get into Portland from Kingston and St Andrew without going through St Thomas or St Mary. The B1 goes from Gordon Town Road, near Papine, through Irish Town and Newcastle, entering Portland at Section before winding downhill to hit the coast at Buff Bay, Portland, where the highway offers access to Port Antonio. It is, however, not heavily used for moving from the city, Port Antonio. Lawrence pointed out the drawbacks of limited routes between the capital and that section of the country.

So, she reiterated, the proposed road development "provides another means of getting to Portland", hence there is the need to not only establish, but also maintain it.